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grow: mia wedgbury

True story: A colleague of mine once answered a knock at her door and was presented with a bouquet of flowers. It wasn't from a loved one or a secret admirer - it was sent to her by an accounting software company.

She was a regular user of the software, and she followed the company on Twitter. Days earlier she posted a tweet telling the world she had just gotten married. The company took notice and sent the flowers to congratulate her.

It was a simple gesture, and she loved it. But that was just the start - she then told me and all of her friends and family about it. And now I'm telling you. Not bad for a $30 promotion budget and a few minutes of time.

I was reminded of the incident when I recently received an update on Facebook from a family resort I've stayed at. It's marketing a free G20 beach-party getaway for people in the Greater Toronto Area who want to get away from this weekend's expected traffic madness. I probably won't be able to go, but I will remember that it made an extra effort to make my life a bit easier.

There's a catchphrase making the rounds in public relations and marketing circles these days – "surprise and delight." To surprise and delight customers means to go beyond good service and do something entirely unexpected, providing moments of joy that virtually guarantees loyalty and ensures they'll spread good words about the brand.

This is where the world of PR, marketing and customer service blur. No business ever went wrong trying to improve its customer service. But by getting creative and trying something different, it's possible to create grateful customers who will also advocate on your behalf. And they'll bring new clients in the door.

The good news is that you don't need a big budget to get started. It's easy enough to provide free samples or give customers a token of thanks, but it works better when the gesture is creative or somehow more personal. I've seen local bakeries pack goodies and take them to the local soccer field, handing out samples to kids and parents playing in the local house league. Or maybe it's handing out umbrellas to people caught in the rain.

Regardless of what works for you, it's the word of mouth you generate that matters. Find the right combination of giveaway and theme, and your brand will truly stand out.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. With more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies, she is focused on fostering the overarching vision for the Canadian market. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients, some of the most innovative and well-respected companies in the country, to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies that drive measurable results. Ms. Wedgbury is known as an innovator, an advocate of career opportunities for women and a dedicated supporter of the technology industry.